This 17-Year-Old Was Told By Her School That Her Hair Was A "Distraction"
Ugh. Yet another account of the hair that grows out of our heads being labeled negatively.
In the words of DJ Khalid: "another one."
But this is the very opposite of the positivity the illustrious artist brings. Not unlike the Massachusetts incident we reported on that banned braids from its school, a Florida private high school has targeted a 17-year-old for her "distracting" hair.
Jenesis Johnson, a high school student at North Florida Christian (NFC) in Tallahassee, has hair that was deemed "inappropriate" for school.
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According to WCTV, Johnson was called into the assistant principal's office after a teacher called her out for her hairstyle, which has been in an afro for months. The assistant principal has declined to comment.
"She said that my hair needs to be fixed, it was not neat and needs to be put in a style. My hair is fixed," said Johnson. The eleventh grader's afro has been a staple of hers; she has been wearing it on and off since the seventh grade. In the past seven months, Johnson has been wearing it daily, and there was never a problem until two weeks ago when the teacher confronted her in front of the class.
According to Johnson, the teacher asked, "How long are you rocking that hairstyle?" This public questioning then prompted students to ask about the maintenance of her hair. "She said your hair is extreme and faddish and out of control. It's all over the place," Jenesis recalled.
NFC, a private school, states in on page 42 of their student handbook, "No faddish or extreme hairstyles, and hair should be neat and clean at all times. The administration will make the decision on any questionable styles."
The student's mother, Lisa Johnson noted, "You might say that it didn't fit the handbook. But I saw, and what she heard is a woman telling her that she's not pretty; her hair does fit society."
17-year-old Johnson on the comments and subsequent admonishing, "It hurts me. It's hurting me. For my people behind me, the younger ones, they're going to have hair like me. Why can't they wear their natural hair?"
She further assured that her hair wouldn't cause trouble confirming, "In every class I sit in the back so it won't cause a distraction."
Mrs. Johnson added, "I wanted to counteract what was told to her and let her know that, you are so beautiful. Your hair is also." Per her mother, the school told her daughter that she could finish the last week of school this year but if she doesn't change her hair, the school will issue them a refund for next semester.
These continued instances are definitely a discriminatory issue. In the Massachusetts school case, the Boston Globe reported that the state's attorney general has since directed the school to stop targeting black and biracial students with dress codes that restricted braids, extensions, and afros. "These styles are not simply fashion choices or trends, but, in addition to occurring naturally in many cases, can be important expressions of racial culture, heritage, and identity," the attorney general's letter stated.
Private schools like NFC often have different and stricter rules than their public counterparts, but it certainly is "questionable" that a black student's natural hair should be classified as "extreme" or the antithesis of "neat and clean."